Thursday, 2 November 2017

Book Review / Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking From Around The World by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez with Julia Turshen

The word hot in the book's title says it all: hot inspiration, hot empathy, hot toughness, hot intellect, and hot skills. All these fantastic aspects came together through concentrated effort just like a loaf of bread comes out of the hot oven, ready to take on the world. Ms Rodriguez took on the world by successfully combining her quest for societal equity and her love of baking into a non-profit social enterprise for low-income, immigrant women so they could transform their baking talents into careers.

How did she pace herself for such success? The steps went like this: identify the passion uniting baking and social justice; learn how to make bread by taking classes at The New School and being apprenticed to the head baker at Daniel Boulud's eponymous Michelin three-star restaurant; start out in your own walk-up apartment kitchen; hire staff/make contacts; sell product; when your kitchen counter can't keep up with demand, rent overnight commercial kitchen space and then office space; when demand still outstrips supply, bring life back to a rundown East Harlem market by setting up a thriving bakery; finally, pass it on via a baking business incubator. Each phase was characterised by connecting with others who related to this passionate focus. A full-throttle open system was embraced all the way.

Recipes not just for flat, leavened, filled, left-over, and sweet breads are offered but also for fabulous accompaniments including main dishes. The international influence, reflecting the cultural diversity of New York City, is on full display here: African, Asian, Middle-Eastern, Hispanic, European, American (Parker House rolls and hotdog/hamburger buns, baby!), and Jewish. The book is worth getting just for the carnitas recipe. But that could be said for the kale, onion, and cheddar m'smen (buttery, flakey Moroccan flatbread) recipe too.  Oh, also the Albanian cheese triangles. And for many others.

Come for the recipes, stay for the stories. One of my favourites is the one about Ms Rodriguez's own great-grandfather replete with picture. Though Laibush Perlmutterwe see him, bespectacled, mustached, and working ever so hard in front of what was considered at that time to be the top-of-the-line baking oven—closed down his Toronto shop way before the author's birth, the shape of his rye bread inspired the one for Hot Bread Kitchen's New Yorker Rye.

My advice? Buy this lovely book which contains many gorgeous photos for yourself and/or for those in your life who bake. The only problem is which recipe do you do first. I am vacillating between monkey bread (rich, sweet, eggy, yeasted loaf smothered with brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon) and traditional onion bialys (appreciated by Mimi Sheraton the author of The Bialy Eaters).

À la prochaine!


Making bialys a la Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook


Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook at Amazon
Hot Bread Kitchen Website: Handmade Authentic Multi-Ethnic Breads, Preserving Tradition, Rising Expectations

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